Food Safety Guidelines

Avoiding Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination is when bacteria spreads from your hands, dirty counters, dirty towels, uncooked foods and many other surfaces to ready-to-eat foods. Cross-contamination can cause food borne illness and is easily avoided if you follow these simply precautions.

Wash Hands Frequently
By washing your hands frequently and between tasks such as working with raw meats and ready-to-eat foods, you will significantly reduce the chance of cross-contamination.
Wash your hands before touching food and after you touch your face or hair, change diapers, have come into contact with pets, dirty cloths, garbage, using the bathroom or working with raw meats.
Wash your hands in warm soapy water, washing front and back and up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails for 20 seconds.
Dry your hands with disposable paper towels or clean, dry cloth towels. Do not dry your hands with a towel that is dirty. This defeats the purpose of washing your hands.
Be sure to wash your hands between working with raw meats and cutting such things as vegetables or fruits.

Use Separate Cutting Boards
Designating a cutting board for use with only raw meats and poultry will help eliminate cross-contamination between raw meats and other foods.
Using color coded cutting boards will make it simple to remember which cutting boards are for raw meats and vegetables. There are many colored cutting boards to choose from. For example use a green or white cutting board for fresh fruits and vegetables, a gray or black cutting board for raw meats and poultry and a wood cutting board for breads or other dry foods.
Be sure to wash cutting boards in hot soapy water after each use and allow to air dry.
Cutting boards that have excessive cracks or knife cuts should be replaced with a new cutting board.

Wash Cooking Utensils & Surfaces Often
Washing cooking utensils and surfaces between tasks with hot, soapy water, followed by a thorough rinse will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Be sure to wash plates or serving trays and cooking utensil between raw meats and cooked meats.
Wash work surfaces while cooking to help reduce cross-contamination. Be sure to wash work surface if raw meat juices, raw eggs or other raw ingredients come in contact with surface.

Other Cross-Contamination Preventative Measures

Keep anyone who has recently been ill with vomiting or diarrhea out of the kitchen.
Cover any cuts with a waterproof bandage.
Store raw meats, poultry and seafood at the bottom of the refrigerator, so juices won’t drip on other items.
Use clean scissors to open food packaging. Kitchen shears are a wonderful tool to have in the kitchen as they come apart and can be put directly into the dishwasher.
Keep the blade on your can opener clean and free from food debris.

Proper Storage & Cooking Temperatures
Storing and cooking foods to the proper temperatures is as an important food safety issue as cross-contamination. If foods are stored too warm or not cooked to the proper temperature, you are still at risk to food borne illnesses.

Safe Storage Temperatures
Food should never be held at temperatures between 40° - 140° F (known as the danger zone) since this is the optimum temperature range for bacteria to grow.
To cool down hot foods properly and safely, never store food more than 2 inches deep. The more surface area, the faster food will cool down. Place food in refrigerator with lid slightly ajar. Once cool, place lid tightly on container.
It is better to place warm food in the refrigerator, than to let it cool down on the counter for several hours. The refrigerator will cool it faster and safer.

Safe Cooking Temperatures
Cooking foods to a proper, safe temperature is the only way to ensure your food is safe to eat. Using a food thermometer, such as an instant read thermometer, is the fastest, easiest and safest way to make sure your food is at a proper temperature. Instant read thermometers are fairly inexpensive and well worth the investment. The following is a guideline for safe cooking temperatures.
Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 170° F for white meat, 180° F for dark meat. If you are cooking a whole bird, place thermometer in the thigh, making sure not to touch the bone, and cook to 180° F.
Pork, ham and bacon should be cooked to an internal temperature of 155° F.
Beef steaks and roasts (this does not included ground beef) should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F (rare).
Ground beef (this includes hamburgers) and ground pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F.
Stuffed meats and stuffing should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F.
Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 155° F.
Leftovers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F.
Any other potentially hazardous foods not listed should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F.

Safely Thawing Foods
It is very important to thaw frozen foods correctly. If frozen foods are thawed incorrectly, there is a high risk of dangerous bacterial growth to occur. The following are safe and acceptable thawing methods.

In the refrigerator at 34° - 38° F. This requires planning ahead; it is the safest way to thaw foods, however the longest. A frozen turkey typically will require approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds to thaw.
Be sure to always have a pan under meats or any foods that may drip raw juices while thawing. Always place thawing meats on the bottom shelf of refrigerator to ensure raw juices do not drip on other foods.
Under cool (below 70° F) running water for no more than 2 hours. If using this method, the water needs to be running fast enough to shake loose food particles into the overflow. Not recommended for large food items, such as a turkey, as it will take longer than the 2 hour limit to thaw.
Do not thaw foods in standing water, this is an unsafe thawing practice, and never recommended.
In a microwave oven, but only if foods will be immediately cooked after thawing. Follow manufacturer directions for proper defrosting in your microwave oven. Microwave thawing is not recommended for large food items, such as a turkey, as it will not thaw evenly and more than likely will not fit correctly.
Thawing foods on the counter is highly unsafe and never recommended.